Right to be offline

On 21 January 2021 the European Parliament appealed to the European Commission for providing for the right of employees that work online to be offline outside their working hours. The European Parliament pointed out that new legal regulations should set out minimum requirements for online work and precisely define working conditions, as well as hours and periods of rest during online work (read here).

Online work has not been set out in the Polish Labour Code yet. General regulations on online work are provided in Art. 3 of the act on special solutions connected with preventing, counteracting and fighting COVID-19, other communicable diseases and crises caused by such diseases. This article does not provide, however, for employees’ right to be offline.

It is necessary to point out that labour regulations applicable in Poland stipulate that employees are not obliged to receive calls from their employer or respond to business e-mails outside their working hours, which means that they have the right to be offline without negative consequences.

Issues connected with working time are provided for in detail in Chapter VI of the Labour Code.

If an employee should work, for example, from 8:00 to 16:00 (as such working hours have been agreed), the remaining time is the employee’s free time.

The situation changes if the employer instructs the employee to work overtime or be on duty. In those cases the employee will have to work or be at the employer’s disposal outside “normal” working hours and can be expected to, among others, receive business calls or respond to business e-mails.

However, please note that for overtime work the employee is entitled to a compensation in the form of time off or an overtime financial benefit (Art. 151 – 1513 of the Labour Code).

In turn, being on duty is set out in Art. 151of the Labour Code. Being on duty means being at the employer’s disposal outside normal working hours at the workplace or another place indicated by the employer for working purposes.

For the time of being on duty, unless at home, the employee is entitled to time off corresponding to the duration of the time of being on duty or, if time off cannot be taken, to payment.

In the event the employee works during the time of being on duty, the period of such work should be considered as overtime work.

The time of being on duty cannot violate the employee’s right to daily and weekly rest.

The situation of employees that manage the company on the employer’s behalf is different.


Marta Strzecha-Bociąga, Attorney-at-law